Roadshow Video Reviews
2011 Mercedes E550 CabrioletLike a commando, bulging in nice resort wear.
-Yeah, it's straight Palm Beach, but the E ragtop is actually a hammer when you bolt up the right engine. Let's saddle up this 2011 Mercedes E550 Cabriolet, and check the tech. Now, our E550 Cab has all the toys, all the package options. I don't think we're missing anything. That's why we navigation. You wouldn't necessarily have this, but you would have a 7-inch screen for the command interface for various vehicle systems. But that nav is optional. You've got some quasi-3D going on there, not a whole lot of it. And of course, this is Mercedes' familiar 2-ribbon center belly band interface. So across the top, you've got option. You press on one of those to go there. You've got a convenient back button here on the control. These are becoming fairly common. And you've got choices for wherever you are along the bottom ribbon. The navigation system does have live traffic on it. The audio system, in this case, has been bumped up to a Harman Kardon rig, and you can see we can play audio discs, as well as DVDs, while we're parked; Bluetooth handsfree, of course. This is an odd one. I don't have any phone paired right know, yet I'm able to scroll through whoever's phonebook was last in this car. Didn't think that was supposed to happen. Now, other sorts of content availability on this vehicle, to get it more interesting than just discs, are, of course, the various pigtails we have here in the glove box----a little inconvenient. That's were you get your AUX, or in this case, iPhone/iPod. There's apparently another one for a female USB in there, but that's not on our system. Here, we have the all-ever-popular PCMCIA card slot. You'll never use that. So, it's actually a good place to stick a business card or whatever you need to hold, maybe a tow receipt. It's worthless otherwise. Notice that you'll need to like this command controller for the voice system because there's no touchscreen here. It's a Mercedes thing. They don't like smudges. 7-speed automatic's your only choice in this car. Mercedes does automatics really well, but we'll get on the road and see how alert this one is. That's always my concern. And the rearview camera is pretty straightforward----no trajectory lines, no distance lines, no nothing---- just an image. It's a little dated in that respect. This Harman Kardon system's interesting. It has the usual Logic 7, the bogus surround that I always leave turned off. Nothing too unusual in terms of any subs or really fuzzy EQ. But check this out. With an audio CD in the drive, you can also rip that to the hard drive 'cause this is a hard-drive-based system. That's the record menu there at the bottom. Well we do have Bluetooth. As we can see all too clearly, we don't have A2DP stereo streaming Bluetooth. This audio system goes to pains to take good care of those stuck here in the relatively compact back seats. You've got the center firing driver down under the armrest. That's one of the speakers. You've got a couple more up here high for ear level. And then check these out. Never seen this before; these are exterior speakers right at me. We're outside the line of the cabin, out here in the paint work, and you've got a couple of drivers here right behind your head. My main fear has been realized on the test car. They get all filthy and stained. I don't know what that is, but it ain't pretty. But it does aid the sound quite a bit. I wanna come back one day as a Mercedes mechanic, if only because that's a cool feature. Anyway, once you get that big old jaw opened up, underneath here is the big motor for this car. This is the 5.5-liter V8, hence the name, E550; 382 horsepower; 391 foot-pounds of torque. A 0 to 60 squirt's gonna take you just a little over 5 seconds. That's speedy. The downside is many of those sprints might be from gas station to gas station, because this thing's EPA rated at 15/22. You'll only get that if you drive around like this all the time, so, I figure somewhere in the high-teens and get ready to spend some bucks on petrol. This is called the Aircap. This definitely falls in that category of the "ain't never seen one of them before". You hit this button right here, it's also speed activated, and up it goes to give you a mesh front panel and a metallic top panel. It's quite rigid. This is not meant for the front passengers. They're protected by the super long sloping windshield. Instead, it moves the airflow high enough that it should scoot over the top of the rear passengers. Let me tell you: That is a good idea if it works. The E550 Cab is actually kind of retro in its "cabbyness". It's a cloth top. At a time when everything from Infinity Gs to BMW Z4s to lowly Miatas, are all going retractable. Okay, I'm in the back seat of the E550 heading down the freeway. I'd rather be just about anywhere, but this backseat, I'm getting buffeted right and left. I would get out and walk. Let's try and fix it. Alright, Mitch is driving. Mitchell, put up the Aircap. Let's see what that does for me. We're doing, what, about 60 miles an hour here. Okay, that's up. We got the buttress up as well, but see how the sound is. Well, it sounds good and feels bad. I wouldn't sit back here for 1 mile. So, sorry, Aircap and goofy thing in the back don't cut it. One thing you'll find that works are the optional Airscarf Headrest Blowers. They puff just enough heated air around the one place you always feel cold in a ragtop. And they do their job just right. You don't feel air blowing. You just don't feel cold. Now, the power in this car is overwhelmingly delicious. It's not that big a car. It does have a lot of horsepower that comes on nicely in a V8 configuration. This is a great motor. But I gotta tell you. You gotta work the gearbox judiciously or it all gets muted out. Standard Drive mode is frankly a disaster. It feels that the car is always in 8th gear, and it only has 7. Pressing the M button for Manual mode, that's too much damn work. I didn't buy a manual transmission car. I don't wanna work like I did. Hitting the Sport mode button is key. It holds gears longer, keeps it automatic, sharpens the throttle curve, and firms up the shocks. The engine gets a little busy and compression braking takes some dignity out of the ride, but it's the nearest thing to perfection we can get. Okay, let's price this. A 2011 E550 Cab, $66,000 is base, and a lot of that's the big motor in that price. And that includes all this ineffectual nonsense like the Aircap and the buffeter reducer in the back that, wow, that so didn't work. Now, let's talk about the tech options to take it CNET style. You want Package No. 1, $4,000. That gives you the hard drive navigation, audio upgrade, rear camera, and the Airscarf Ventilation. This does work well. Oh, and the last thing you gotta consider, how you're gonna get a front seat every time?